Suicide isn't painless.
I've been sitting on some thoughts this week. Two notable creative geniuses died by suicide and I have felt some expectation and pressure to say . . . something.
For the new people in back, I survived my own suicide attempt when I was 19. It was the start of a long road of mental illness stuffs. My dad died from suicide in 2007. I have a weird dual perspective on the topic of suicide, and I’m vocal about it.
There are so many questions right now about what friends and family can do to help. How can you reach out? It feels a lot like the classic ally conundrum faced in other circles of activism. There are memes everywhere that encourage those living with mental illness to “reach out” and memes telling friends to “check in on” those in need. Both miss the point.
If I’m depressed, I might not know I’m depressed. I might just seem angry and confrontational. I might push away everyone who is trying to help. I might not be weeping into my pillow in a grand movie theater dramatic fashion, but I’m hurting nonetheless. I might just stop giving all fucks about life. I might stop cleaning. I might stop taking out the trash. I might stop calling you. I might not engage with you on trivial things. I might post really awkward and uncomfortable social media posts. Depression doesn’t always mean sad. It often looks very different than straight sadness.
How do you help someone like that? How do you know if it’s depression or just crankiness? If I’m being honest, most of you don’t. Most of you ignore it and hope it gets better on its own. That’s a critique and also a criticism, sure. I’m guilty of it myself. It’s easy to just dismiss a “bitchy” friend. It’s easy to write it off as jealousy or anger when it’s really a deep wound that’s festering and begging for healing. It’s easy to talk in private messages about that weird thing that strange girl posted in the Facebook group chat or on the message board.
And here’s where I start talking to my women friends directly. This is a part of our culture. We call each other bitches and we get feisty about competition. How about we all relax and realize that we’re all living under the same burdens and pressures. We need to reach out instead of applying broad labels and work toward helping each other through this mess. Mental health issues affect us in unique ways that have a long and storied past with regards to patriarchy and femininity and perceptions of sexuality. So how about we band together and check in on the weird friend who isn’t sad, but maybe posted something that made us uncomfortable. Call the person up who is being catty and bitchy toward you and ask if she needs anything. Stop and chat with the coworker who has a chip on her shoulder. Because depression isn’t what you think it is and it doesn’t look neat and tidy the way we all would like it to look.